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Eador: Masters of the Broken World (Epic Sized) Interview

You may recall that of all of the games I saw at E3, Eador: Masters of the Broken World was the one that caught my eye despite the lack of a huge booth and go-go dancers. Of course I have no idea how the game will come together in the end but if Snowbird Games hits its target — this is going to be something special.

When you are developing a game and tossing about words such as Master of Magic, Civilization and Heroes of Might and Magic you immediately draw the usual cries of, “Oh great another attempt at a MoM sequel” but Eador has the foundation in place and looks like it just might pull it off.

I had a chat with Vladimir Tortsov of Snowbird to talk about the game, its design, and a host of other goodies.

This one is long. Bring a snack.

First off, can you clear something up for us? I read an article recently which describes Eador as a “real- time strategy game” and yet the demo I saw at E3 looked clearly like a turn-based game. Is Eador real-time or turn-based?

You saw it correctly, of course it’s turn-based. It was some kind of misinterpretation in that other article.

OK, now that we have that out of the way, can you tell us what Eador is all about? What exactly will you be doing in the game – how do you “win”?

From the very beginning of the game Eador poses a challenge: try to unify the shattered pieces of a planet under your rule, or lose. By invading the other shards (that’s how we call these pieces of firmament floating in the astral void) and conquering them, your alter-ego, the Master, becomes more powerful and better able to shape the world as he wants.

Thus, Eador. Masters of the Broken World is all about achieving ultimate power and using it to do good or evil, depending on the player’s choice. In this sense, it’s pretty similar to the idea behind Sid Meier’s Civilization, except that in our game there are concepts of evil and good and you have to make a choice all the time.

Technically speaking, the gameplay consists of three connected levels: astral, strategic and tactical. Having invaded a shard (the astral level), the players land on its surface (strategic level) and, after a series of battles (tactical level), they conquer the shard and literally attach it to their homeland. Add in diplomacy, army and hero management, internal affairs and moral dilemmas to the mix, and you get the game.

I came away from the E3 demo excited to see more because it looks like Eador is borrowing from so many turn-based strategy staples, but this is such a large game – how challenging is it to combine so many different gameplay elements into one package? It looks like there are so many moving parts with the design.

Yeah, it’s a clockwork with a huge number of details. I have to give the full credit for this amazing work to our lead game designer Alexey Bokulev, who is an extremely creative person and a huge fan of old-school strategy games.

In fact, Eador was born from Alexey’s wish to play a perfect strategy game combining all the best features from his favorite games such as Master of Magic, Heroes of Might and Magic, and Civilization. Designing that dream game was a very complicated task indeed, but he succeeded. You can check some screenshots from the 2D version of Eador (released in 2010 in CIS countries only) here: http://www.eador.com/eador1/gallery.html. With this 3D remake we’re working on, we’re trying to introduce this extraordinary strategy game to the worldwide audience.

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The combat model based off the E3 demo reminded me a lot of Heroes of Might and Magic and King’s Bounty. What makes Eador’s combat mechanic special? When readers see the screenshots they think, “Oh a HoMM clone.” Can you explain some of the differences between the two?

Yeah, it’s true – the tactical screen is the most ‘classic’ of them all. Well, the difference lies in the details. Our battleground isn’t just a field with a grid – it represents the real location with different types of terrain and obstacles. It matters a lot, because terrain affects the performance of your troops providing various bonuses and penalties. Unlike HoMM, our units don’t stack, so you couldn’t “cheat” by amassing a huge army of dragons on a single hex and eradicating all resistance. Finally, each unit has dynamically changing attributes like morale and stamina, which makes this combat system closer to the tabletop games with miniatures than to HoMM or King’s Bounty.

Can you talk a little about the various hero types that lead your armies? How do they differ fro one another and can you guide them down various paths by spending experience points?

There are four basic types of heroes in the game. They serve as generals for your armies and participate in battles alongside other units.
A Warrior is a strong melee fighter, relying on his physical strength and equipment. He is a ‘one man army’, requiring only limited support from other units.

A Scout is a skilled archer, also possessing a broad variety of non-combat utility skills such as a possibility to sabotage enemy army before the battle.

A Commander is weak in melee, but he can lead a larger army than any other hero of comparable level, granting an assortment of bonuses to his troops as he leads them into battle.

A Mage is, naturally, a very skilled spellcaster who can easily turn the tide of battle with a couple of powerful magic tricks.

Every unit in the game (including heroes, of course) gains experience points and progresses in levels. When a hero reaches level 10, he ascends to new class, either an advanced version of his initial specialization or a combination with any of the three remaining base classes. For example, our Warrior could keep his initial focus on melee and become a Berserker possessing some exciting new perks, or he can turn into a Dark Knight, able to cast deadly necromantic spells.

When you attack a shard, what sort of things will you have to manage? This “overland” portion of the game looked meaty at E3 but I was hoping to get some more information about some of the tasks and gameplay mechanics that are involved with it. What do you have to do to run your economy, for example? Do you obtain gold, wood, etc?

The strategic level is the most complex one in the game, as there is lot of stuff to take care about – economics, politics, warfare, etc. First of all, the players should expand their capital, which is their main base of operations on the shard. By choosing which buildings he needs most and constructing them, the player shapes up his strategy. Military buildings allow him to hire stronger troops; financial buildings help to increase his income, while entertainment buildings assist him in keeping the population happy.

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Concerning resources, there are two basic ones: gold and magic gems. The gems are required for all our magical needs, while gold is needed for pretty much everything else. There are also nine rare resources in the game such as mithril or redwood lumber. Each rare resource has its specific purpose: for instance, mithril is used to create the most powerful artifacts with magical effects and lumber is required for the construction of some advanced buildings in the city.

What are some of the role-playing mechanics at work in Eador? I seem to recall something about hero quests during the E3 demo? Can you give me some examples of how that works?

Yeah, as I’ve said before – not just your heroes, but all units in the game level-up and get some new perks and abilities. For instance, your knights can acquire the passive ability to deal more damage to evil units starting from level 8, while your ogres may learn how to stun the enemy troops on level 3.

Speaking of quests, each hero can be assigned with an exploration task instead of a military one. It means our hero could spend his time in an allied province, wandering around and looking for places of interest. Each province has a number of dungeons, crypts, caves, magic shops etc., and our hero could visit all these beautiful places in order to gain some experience fighting the guardians and to plunder their treasures. Even if our hero was unable to find anything unusual during his search, exploration is a great way to increase tax income of that province (we can imagine that our hero is actually looking for more taxpayers to rip off, rather than for the monsters to slay?)

You mentioned unit stamina and morale? How do those affect gameplay?

Stamina represents the unit’s ability to carry out our orders – i.e. move or attack. Each action costs a specific amount of stamina points, and when the unit is attacked by the enemy, his stamina suffers as well. The unit with zero stamina is considered utterly exhausted and becomes completely useless. Therefore, the player should review the state of his troops and give his tired units a break to catch their breath.

Morale works a little bit different, but the effect is quite similar. The unit’s morale depends on many factors, including the general’s stats, magical effects, army composition and current battlefield situation. A demoralized unit cannot fight and will most probably try to flee the battle.

How does diplomacy work? What can be accomplished by talking to your opponents and not just stabbing them?

The diplomacy system is working on two levels – astral and strategic.

On the astral level, we can learn more about our competitors – the other Masters – by speaking to them. There is a strong chance that we’d want to ally ourselves with a fellow Master who shares our views and beliefs. These ‘astral’ alliances lead to different story paths, eventually providing us with different endings.

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There is also a strategic level diplomacy, which takes place during the war over some particular shard. It is possible that some other Masters also chose this shard as their target during their turn, and in this case, diplomacy becomes a powerful tool of survival. Instead of fighting the war on two or more fronts, we can negotiate with some of our adversaries and convince them to leave this shard for good. We can also sign a trade agreement with other Masters and sell or buy resources.

What sort of creatures are you able to recruit in the game? Do you play a specific race such as the “Undead” or can you mix and match your unit types within an army or on various shards?

In Eador, you play as yourself – meaning that you don’t represent elves, orcs or humans when you’re hiring them. You’re the Master, a demigod, and these puny mortals are nothing but pawns in your great game. Thus, you can mix & match units from different races as you want, but you have to pay attention to the chemistry. Goblins and elves don’t really get along together, so you can expect a penalty to the troops’ morale on a battlefield.

The player may ally with any of the races populating a particular shard, thus gaining access to its warriors (but you have to construct a specific building in your capital before that). Alternately, some particular units may join your ranks as a result of a completed quest.

The game looked enormous at the show – how “big” of a game is Eador? Can you customize the options for a shorter game or is that set in stone?

If we’re talking about hours of gameplay, I’d say the first playthrough of Eador could take you about 60 hours to beat the game. Once you’ve learned the tricks and understood the basics, you can finish the game in half that time. Thus, the duration of the story-driven campaign is more or less set in stone, but in the ‘skirmish’ mode (strategic + tactical levels) you can adjust all the settings as you wish.

Let’s talk a little about the random events that pop up from time to time. How involved are these events and are there enough in the game that you won’t see the same ones too often?

According to our latest inspection, there are 1,264 different ‘event dialogues’, so there shouldn’t be a problem with their variety. Some of them are simple and last only for one round, while some others are more complex and may lead to unexpected outcomes a few turns later. Some of them are connected to your heroes, while others could happen anytime and anywhere.

Lastly, are you still on track for a 2012 release?

So far – yes, we’re still aiming for this year. Wish us luck with that!

 

I’d like to thank Vladimir for talking with us and you can hopefully grab Eador sometime in 2012 on a PC near you.

Bill Abner

Bill has been writing about games for the past 16 years for such outlets as Computer Games Magazine, GameSpy, The Escapist, GameShark, and Crispy Gamer. He will continue to do so until his wife tells him to get a real job.

8 thoughts to “Eador: Masters of the Broken World (Epic Sized) Interview”

  1. Sounds very promising!

    I was really hoping that “Warlock: Master of the Arcane” would scratch this particular itch, but, alas, it did not.

    1. Well, to be fair to Warlock it’s a much smaller scaled game. It’s nowhere near as ambitious (and risky) as Eador. Eador looks *huge* and very Eastern European. (I mean that in a good way.)

      It could fail spectacularly or be a truly amazing piece of turn-based game design.

      Devil will be in the (AI) details.

  2. Sign me up for this.

    I agree with Ajax that I was hoping Warlock would cover this genre for me, but after trouncing it on Impossible without breaking a sweat, the game mostly lost its shine. Was fun while it lasted though.

  3. Oh man…hell yeah. Thanks Bill for the E3 follow up. No wonder you thought this looked great

  4. Looks very interested with a ton of detail and content. The only downside is the first time i read the name, i read it as “Eador: Masters of the Broken Wind,” which just ruined the name for me afterward….

  5. Yea, now that I’ve caved and bought the Civ expansion before it went on sale this is the only other game I know of that I’m hoping to buy this year (guild wars 2 already paid for, doesn’t count!).

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